Of all the difficult choices in creating the Colonial Century, these seemed easy. The greatest athletes of the Colonial Century left little room for argument.
Some special criteria still were needed, though. If this list were based on potential, it might look a little different. Whereas the list of greatest basketball players on Thursday was forgiving to hoopsters who in some cases had only played a year, this ranking is a little more discerning. When you’re talking about the best of the best, consistency becomes especially important. For example, a year ago, swimmer Tim Champney may have made this list. Right now it’s tempting to put gymnast Devin McCalla here. And the sky’s surely the limit for basketballers such as SirValiant Brown and Chris Monroe. But this group represents a level of success that can only be judged when it’s all said and done.
But that’s not to say these are just the career leaders in every sport. Noelia Gomez only played three years, so there’s a few scorers ahead of her. But she’s close enough that her Atlantic 10 Player of the Year honor ranks her as the second greatest women’s basketball player. Diane Kelly is second on the soccer scoring lists, but she played only two years. Her amazing scoring made her, we think, easily the greatest GW women’s soccer player (giving all the credit in the world to Chemar Smith, No. 1 on the scoring lists), but putting a two-year player on a list of the greatest athletes seemed like pushing it. When you talk about the greatest, extrapolation shouldn’t be relied upon too much.
Also, if this were a list of the greatest overall careers put together by Colonials, it may look different. In that case, baseball’s John Flaherty (a decade in the majors), basketball’s Gene Guarilia (four NBA championships in four seasons with the Celtics), several football players (like Garry Lyle, who played from 1967-1974 for the Chicago Bears), and of course golf’s Scott Wolf (just kidding) would be very high on this list.
But it only seemed proper to rank those who dominated in college. Sure, it doesn’t hurt Tuffy Leemans that he made the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but that only cemented the reputation of a man who was already the greatest football player in GW history. And maybe if poor Yinka Dare hadn’t become an NBA laughingstock, he’d be here, too – considering his great college career. The point is, a nice pro career certainly doesn’t hurt, and it can help – but it can’t substitute for a merely excellent college career. We are talking about the greatest here. Men like Flaherty and Guarilia would make any list of the best in their respective sports (Guarilia was on The Hatchet’s fifth team Thursday while Flaherty was baseball Coach Tom Walter’s all-century catcher) – but here, they just don’t quite cut it.
It’s also worth noting the very serious consideration men’s water polo player Callie Flipse, the first woman at GW to compete in a men’s sport, was given for this list. But in the end, it seemed more fair to put aside sentiment and make room for women and men who came by their laurels the conventional way.
In fact, there are many athletes such as Flipse who probably deserve to be on this list. But when you get down to it, the question remains: Who would they replace?
This article appeared in the May 1, 2000 issue of the Hatchet.